“A satisfied customer is the best business strategy,” said Michael LeBoeuf, author of bestselling business book, How to Win Customers and Keep Them for Life. At the core of every business, with all your sales and marketing tactics stripped away, making your users or customers happy should be one of your obsessions. We’ve talked about optimizing your pricing, assortment, and timing - now it’s time to talk about product ratings and their impact on your business.
If you’re avid online shoppers like us, you know full well that product reviews and their ratings is perhaps the most important factor in your purchase decision. The lack of product ratings is also a deterrent, especially when the item is more costly.
Number One Factor In A Purchase Decision
You already know this - customer recommendations and word-of-mouth are more effective than any marketing you could’ve paid for. Not to mention, it also comes completely organic and in most cases, free.
If you’re lucky, it could turn out to be a viral piece - like the Amazon Coat. The Amazon Coat is a story of how the right price combined with gushing reviews made the puffer jacket (from a small Chinese manufacturer, not a luxury brand, mind you) spread its popularity from New York to Europe. Its distinctive style, warmth, and functionality were described in the product’s more than 6000 reviews, with an average of 4.2 stars out of 5.
Anything with that many reviews while maintaining a rating above 4 is surely doing something right, right?? Its popularity has even spurred the creation of an Instagram account, @TheAmazonCoat, dedicated to posting pictures of women in it. Customers who’ve bought it describe a sense of kinship when they see others wearing it because they all know they’ve gotten a good deal. There was no need to drop cash on influencer posts - influencers bought them to jump on the bandwagon and shared with their followers. The unpaid publicity from influencers spurred even more followers to click on the affiliate links because the posts were not tagged #sponsored, resulting in more trust.
According to Euromonitor’s Lifestyle Survey in 2017, more than 50% of online shoppers aged 15 to 29 are influenced by independent customer reviews, aka your product ratings. When shoppers cannot physically see or touch the product, it’s more clear than ever that ratings are one of the most important determinants (if not the most) between an abandoned cart and a successful transaction.
Make It Easy For Others To Leave Reviews
Everlane is another case of how word-of-mouth and plentiful positive product ratings have caused exponential growth in revenue, despite humble origins. In fact, product reviews are the cornerstone of many a digital disruptor. If you’re going to be focused on selling a tightly curated assortment of products (as is the case of Everlane and many other DTC brands), you better make certain those are loved by customers. If you scroll through Everlane’s site and click on a random product, you see instantly that it has a few hundred reviews, all with a pretty high average rating. Of course its radical transparency policy helped its growth because it seeks to disrupt the fashion industry, but one crucial thing the brand got right was to have a robust referral and affiliate link program. That’s not to say that its gushing reviews by consumers are all engineered, but the paid word-of-mouth model ensured that bloggers were buying Everlane pieces themselves and spreading the brand across the web. We really have to applaud the ingenuity of Everlane’s marketing - they even created an engaging and amusing campaign that encourages consumers to submit reviews to be shared, titled #DearEverlane. Once again, it runs with the theme of transparency, because they do share negative reviews as well, but we’re not saying you have to do that too.
What’s important lies in the small details too. The wild success of the Amazon Coat can also be partly attributed to the one-click shopping function of Amazon, which enabled shoppers to easily purchase the apparel from Instagram via the swipe-up function.
Make It Your Merchandising Strategy
The Amazon 4-star store is curated on the idea of its best-reviewed, most popular products, and it’s definitely something different from traditional retail. It capitalizes on the concept that high star ratings must mean that the products are well-loved by its customers and a good overall value. Especially when you’re in the business of operating a marketplace where there’s probably thousands of olive green puffer jackets, it’s difficult to differentiate one product from another.
The idea of a curated shop within a shop purely by way of ratings is definitely a fascinating strategy to play with, and can be readily adopted by large multi-brand retailers. The curated shop can easily sit in another section of your e-commerce site, next to that “New Arrivals” link. Time-strapped online shoppers no longer have to scroll through pages and pages of dresses when other shoppers just like her have already picked out the best value-for-money dress to wear to that wedding party. It can also result in improved conversions; because when shoppers see that those who’ve purchased are loving the product, they will want in too.
Product Ratings Can Be Easily Influenced
An article by Harvard Business Review argues that the average star rating does not correlate with quality after an analytical study was done. A white shirt with 4.6 stars does not necessarily mean it’s better-made than another white shirt with 3.8 stars. That, of course, is no surprise. We all know that product reviews are highly subjective and heavily influenced by your mood. Nobody writes a review based on set metrics, but everybody writes about how the product makes them feel. By this design, only users or customers on the extreme end of the ‘feeling spectrum’ will write reviews. This means that only very satisfied or incensed customers will leave a review and they are usually a small bunch.
What we are trying to say here is that product ratings can be easily influenced, even when holding the quality factor constant. From nipping angry reviews in the bud to encouraging ratings from customers who did not return their products, you’re not completely helpless when facing off with today’s more rational and discerning customer. This obviously doesn’t mean you should skimp on the value you’re giving to your customer.
So pay attention to your product listings on your e-commerce site right now. Are product ratings and reviews enabled for them? Are you following up with customers to leave a rating after they’ve purchased? Share with us what you’ve done so far at firstname.lastname@example.org. Understanding and tracking your product ratings can go a long way in developing better products and customer relationships.